But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. –Ephesians 4:7
The apostle Paul tells us something very important in this very short sentence in his letter to the church in Ephesus. Namely, grace is God’s gift to us. He “measures” it out to us because of the work of his Son, Jesus, who has risen to the Father in glory after his death and resurrection. This completed work of Christ, whereby he now “sits” at the right hand of the Father (symbolizing his work as finished), inaugurated a new day for the church, over which Jesus serves as head (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:19-22). That new day includes our being filled with the Holy Spirt upon our confession of faith and spiritual gifts imparted to us for the work of the gospel. I know, all of that sounds a bit heady. So, here it is in a nutshell. God gives us gifts, some people get more than others, some gifts are more visible than others, but rest assured, the gifts are from him, not a result of our own stature or intelligence.
Paul acknowledged that he was not special in and of himself (see Eph. 3:8 & Gal. 1:11-24). He did however acknowledge repeatedly in his letters that he had been called by God’s grace to preach the gospel, and that primarily to the Gentiles. This clearly was God’s grace and purpose at work, because as anyone can tell you, if you want to share a new idea with people, you should choose someone from their own people group to share it. You do not choose your spokesperson from the enemy camp (imagine how well most Americans today would relate to a North Korean or an Iranian walking into our towns and telling us about a transforming new idea). Paul was a Jew, and not just any Jew, but a Jewish Pharisee, the mortal enemy of any self-respecting Gentile. Nevertheless, he was God’s choice. Paul calls it in Ephesians 3:2 the “stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you.”
God’s plan, we now know, was to reveal a mystery that he had kept hidden for many ages but had now made known through the apostles, including Paul. Although Paul was “less than the least of the apostles” in his own eyes, God, by his grace, was “pleased to reveal his Son” to him in order that he might preach Christ among the Gentiles. The mystery, Paul tells us, was simply this: that the Gentiles are now “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Big news if you were a Gentile in the first century, and big news if you are a Gentile in the 21st century.
Here’s my point. Paul was a guy that no one in their right mind would pick to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. To the Jews, possibly, but never to the Gentiles. He did not have the right pedigree. His credentials were all wrong. He was in his pre-Christian life, by his own admission, “zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (the Jewish nation). And the traditions of his fathers absolutely rejected any notion of equality with Gentile “dogs” and “sinners.” And yet he now found himself with an unquenchable desire to see people saved and brought into a relationship with Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. That is how God’s grace works.
What does this mean for you and me? It means at least this. We must learn to trust that God knows what is best when it comes to distributing his gifts of grace. We are not in competition with other believers. For reasons known only to the Father, some get more responsibilities than others. Some of that is due to people’s faithfulness (see Matt. 25 and the parable of the talents), but much of it is simply due to the wisdom of God and his provision of grace to individual believers. We do not have to be someone else, nor do we need to feel any compulsion to be the star attraction. The church works best when each part is doing his or her part, not the part that they think they should do. Serve where you are gifted, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone occasionally for the sake of others, but trust God to figure out who gets what gift. He is pretty good at that. Then, when you find yourself working in your area of giftedness, serve with a glad heart and with all your energy. In doing so, the church will be well rounded, and God will rightfully get the glory.
I am pleased to be serving with you…by God’s grace!
Grace and peace,